Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Chelsea Flower Show

(For more pictures, and a more complete blog entry with links, please visit my website.)

Every year, the Chelsea Flower Show is held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, the retirement home of the Chelsea Pensioners. For 145 years, the Chelsea Flower Show has been the premier event of the gardening calendar, and indeed of the London Season, attended by everyone from royalty and celebrities to amateur and professional gardeners alike. My husband and I had a wonderful day out at Chelsea yesterday. It was such a treat to have a day with him, especially during the week.

The Chelsea Flower Show is a place where the only limit is the designers’ imaginations. Amazing show gardens sit side by side with equally intriguing “small gardens”. Sculptures, greenhouses, conservatories and garden follies abound. Among the amazing show gardens this year was one made entirely from plasticine. Although it was not eligible for any medals because it did not actually contain any live flowers, it really was quite something. One of my favourite show gardens was The Daily Telegraph Garden, but in terms of the smaller gardens I have to say for me The Children’s Society Garden was definitely the best, closely followed by the QVC Garden. I liked the Children’s Society Garden because it was so amazingly practical, and also beautiful. The QVC Garden really appealed to my romantic side. The florist of the year was amazing too - Neil Whittaker created the hat in the photograph on the top left. He lifted it off its stand for me to see the underneath part of it, and it was as beautiful as the top. I made sure to take one of his business cards!

Vendors compete to make their wares more appealing and offer special “show discounts”. In the Great Pavilion you can take an order form and walk round the incredible displays, ticking the boxes for the plants and bulbs you want to order. They are then delivered to you later in the year. I had some amazing tulips from last year’s show and have ordered more this year from the same company - Bloms Bulbs. I also bought some flower seeds. I am not notorious for my green thumb, but I’m hopeful to grow some very pretty flowers from them.

Outside, you can buy just about anything you can imagine for your garden. From gates, to sculptures and fountains, conservatories, garden follies and buildings, furniture, ironwork and even super modern revolving circular summer houses made of steel and glass. They range from the affordable to the ridiculous - I saw a water feature priced at £11,000 (which someone was actually buying!) and a conservatory that cost over £100,000 (which did not seem to have any takers at the time). There are also tiny shops with everything from paintings, arts and crafts, baskets, flowers and even Wellington Boots. It is incredible. There is almost too much to see in just one day.

The wonderful thing about The Chelsea Flower Show is that it is a fantastic place to see and be seen, and have a really fun day in the heart of fashionable Chelsea. We wandered through the gardens, shopped, celebrity-watched (the BBC film all day from the show and there is always a recognisable face about), listened to music at the bandstand and drank champagne at the Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar overlooking the show. It was fantastic, and we were so lucky with the weather, with not even a drop of rain.

We enjoyed it so much we are already planning next year’s visit, and today I have booked tickets to the Charity Gala Preview of the Hampton Court Flower Show in July. Now I just have to get on with designing my own garden!!

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